On a clear Milwaukee night, when the eyes of several playoff contenders were fixed on Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner, it was shaky play from another key asset that tanked San Francisco’s chances of victory.
Sam Dyson — perhaps the Giants’ best trade piece behind Bumgarner and closer Will Smith — entered the game with a 2-1 lead in the eighth inning and proceeded to give up three straight doubles to hand the game right back over to the Brewers.
San Francisco rallied to tie the game at four in the ninth but a walkoff single by Ben Gamel finished things off. The loss snapped the Giants’ three-game win streak, impacted the trade value of both the marketable arms in question and making it increasingly harder for the front office to seriously consider making a postseason push, five and a half games back of the second NL Wild Card.
Dyson had nine holds in his last 15 appearances, allowing just two earned runs in 16 innings of work (1.13 ERA), but his implosion against a playoff-caliber team is sure to be a data point for interested general managers. Bumgarner, while he did throw 103 pitches, continued to demonstrate to contenders that his services could be invaluable in a late-season push and especially in the playoffs, considering his postseason pedigree.
Bumgarner (5-7, 3.86 ERA), coming off a pre-break outing against the Cardinals cut short by a left elbow contusion, fared reasonably well over five innings, limiting the Brewers to one unearned run on seven hits with six strikeouts. The San Francisco staple used the arm side of the plate well, making timely putaway pitches and benefiting from alert defense early on.
Regardless of what direction the Giants choose to go before the trade deadline, Bumgarner’s play will be in the spotlight these next couple weeks. If they decide to make a run at a wild card spot, Bumgarner will need to be at his best for San Francisco to have a real chance; if the Giants (42-49) go the expected route and sell, their bargaining position will improve with his every quality outing.
After Mike Yastrzemski settled for a bases-loaded fly out to the warning track in the first on a cutter down the middle, Bumgarner worked out of a jam in the bottom of the frame. With two runners in scoring position and one out, Bumgarner got Mike Moustakas to pop out to Buster Posey in foul territory before Posey zipped the ball down the third base line to pick off Lorenzo Cain.
Milwaukee made Bumgarner labor throughout the evening, fouling off 24 pitches — the fifth-most against him this year — and inflating his pitch count, but the Brewers could not break through against the southpaw who has started to show his best stuff of late — 3-0 with a 1.80 ERA in his last four starts.
Opposing starter Zach Davies clamped down on the recently mashing Giants after his early struggles, allowing one hit over the rest of his six innings — a fourth-inning Evan Longoria leadoff single. Longoria would take second on a wild pitch, but was thrown out trying to steal third to end the inning, the first time the third baseman has been caught stealing third base in his 12-year career.
Posey came up big on defense in the bottom of the fourth to preserve a slim 1-0 lead, when he fielded a one-hopper cutoff throw from Brandon Crawford to tag Moustakas out at the plate, as he tried to score from first on a double by backup catcher Manny Pina. Posey scooped the ball a couple steps left of home and dove at Moustakas before he could reach the back of the dish, helping keep Bumgarner unscathed after four.
The stellar defense that had backed Bumgarner in the first four innings did not hold up in the fifth when Gold Glove second baseman Joe Panik whiffed on a deep grounder, allowing Davies — aboard on a double — to score and tie the game at 1-1.
Then, in the seventh, pinch hitter Austin Slater barreled an RBI double into the left-center gap for the go-ahead run, giving the Giants a 2-1 lead. The 26-year-old outfielder, batting .450 with three homers and 11 RBIs, has now recorded a hit in six of his first seven games since being recalled. Slater has also driven in at least one run in each of those six games.
San Francisco, though, couldn’t capitalize. The Giants bullpen — the strength of the team and owners of the third-best ERA in the NL at 3.93 — blew up in the eighth. San Francisco, though, picked Dyson up in the ninth. Stephen Vogt knocked in the tying runs on a single that was then bobbled by Cain — Milwaukee’s second error — allowing both Crawford and Slater to score.
Reyes Moronta could not send the Giants to their second consecutive extra-inning game, though. The normally-sure-handed Crawford could not field a routine grounder from Ryan Braun cleanly in the bottom of the ninth, allowing the leadoff man to reach. The error would prove costly when Gamel stung a liner to the right field wall with two outs and runners on first and second to walk it off. It was the first time that both Crawford and Panik had made errors in the same game since Aug. 25, 2014 against the Rockies.
The Giants will look to take the series tomorrow in a mid-day game that will feature Tyler Beede (2-3, 5.64 ERA) for the visitors and Jhoulys Chacin (3-9, 5.40 ERA) for the Brewers.